In today’s fast-paced world full of attention-grabbing diversions, baseball has often been criticized for being too boring. I don’t buy it. Baseball has endured for so long precisely because so many still find following the game a worthwhile pastime.
I will admit, however, that following baseball is more challenging than following some other sports because of its slower pace, its frequency (almost daily), and some of the game’s almost imperceptible nuances. But with a little bit of effort, you, too, can learn to appreciate the game and become a baseball fan.
Without further ado, here are some humble suggestions for how to become a baseball fan.
Go to baseball games
There aren’t too many things more enjoyable than spending a summer evening at a baseball game, in my opinion. Even if you live in a city without a Major League team, many cities and towns support minor league teams. Compared to the Major Leagues, the minor leagues offer more affordable ticket prices and, thus, more affordable opportunities to sit close to the action. Grab a hot dog, buy a program, keep score, sit back, relax, and enjoy the game. And if there are no minor league teams in your area, go to a college or high school game.
Subscribe to MLB.tv
If you don’t live in a market with a Major League Baseball team, MLB.tv is an excellent option. For $109.99 (2017 season pricing), you can watch or listen to any broadcast of any out-of-market team on any device all season. (There’s also a single team option for $84.99.) The MLB.tv subscriptions also include access to all radio broadcasts of games and the MLB At Bat app’s premium features for your mobile devices. If you buy the whole package instead of the single team option, you can take your time watching different teams before deciding which team you want to follow. If you don’t have the money to subscribe to MLB.tv, try a Gameday Audio subscription for $19.99, which will give you all the radio feeds for all teams (no blackouts).
Follow a team
Baseball happens almost everyday at most levels of professional baseball. Watch or listen to as many games as you can, and if you miss a game, at least check the box scores everyday. Following a specific team will add context and continuity, which, I think, are important for being a baseball fan. Eventually, after following a team long enough, you’ll develop expectations for the team and its players, and you’ll be able to watch the game more critically as players outperform or underperform your expectations from game-to-game.
Enjoy the anticipation of the pitch
The wait between pitches is almost always cited as a major reason that baseball is considered “boring” by some people. It can be a drag when the pitcher, batter, or both, are unnecessarily taking too much time between pitches. But in more consequential situations, especially in more consequential games, the weight of the world is contained in that lull between pitches. Feel that weight, revel in it, and you will see why efforts to put a clock on that time between pitches seems so far off-base (no pun intended) to many baseball fans.
Learn the rules of the game
Need help falling asleep at night? Read the Official Rules of Baseball.
Are you easily distracted? Do you have trouble paying attention? If so, the perfect antidote is to keep score of the game. It’s easy. Most programs sold (or given away) at baseball games include a scorecard and simple instructions on how to keep score. I find keeping score of a baseball game almost therapeutic in its simple pleasure. Plus, it serves as a personalized souvenir of the game you attended. (Don’t hesitate to keep score while watching games at home.)
Read baseball books
Watch baseball movies
- Field of Dreams
- Bull Durham
- The Sandlot
- A League of Their Own
- Major League
- Major League II
Learn about baseball statistics, including today’s advanced stats
Baseball fans communicate about baseball via statistics. Batting average and runs batted in (RBI) are statistics most people are familiar with. In the last 10–20 years, however, a whole slew of new statistics have been developed that provide better evaluations of players’ performances. Of note, wins above replacement (WAR) is a catch-all statistic that takes into consideration a compilation of offensive and defensive metrics that attempt to provide a value for each player. An average (i.e., “replacement”) player would have a 0.0 WAR. The best players will accumulate around 8–10 wins above replacement per season. Major League Baseball has a fairly comprehensive glossary of standard and advanced baseball statistics, and websites such as FanGraphs and Baseball Reference are indispensable.
Learn the history
Reading baseball books, watching baseball movies, and studying baseball statistics should all help you learn the history of the game. If not, Google Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Sandy Koufax, et al.
Buy a glove and a ball, break in the glove, and play catch with friends or family members. There are few things as relaxing as playing catch.
In my opinion, the best way to develop an appreciation for the game is to play the game.